tv Charlie Rose WHUT February 18, 2010 9:00am-10:00am EST
>> couric: welcome to the broadcast. tonight, james cameron, the director and writer of "avatar". >> the way i intended the film to work and the way i believe it is working is that when people view the film they are told initially that the na'vi are bad that they're hostile, ferocious, and that they're going to try to kill you. then you meet them and find out in fact they're pretty fearsome but as you see the world more from their perspective and our hero goes on this journey of perceptual change we begin to embrace them more and more. >> rose: and a conversation with willie mays. >> i used to freedom at night and people asked me how could you dream at night and go to the ballpark and do what you dream? i don't know. i used to think about a fly ball coming to me in center field at nighttime when i'm at home laying down watching t.v. and
something happened, the ball would come out to me, i knew exactly what i had to do. i didn't have to worry about me catching the ball, throwing it. i seen it the night before. >> couric: cameron and mays two for the books. next. ♪ ♪ if you've had a coke in the last 20 years, ( screams ) you've had a hand in giving college scholarships... and support to thousands of our nation's... most promising students. ♪ ( coca-cola 5-note mnemonic )
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: james cameron is here. or i shauld say james cameron is back. he is a director and writer for "avatar". the movie has resonated around the globe. it has become the highest grossing film of all time. box office numbers worldwide have surpassed $2 billion. it replaced the second-highest grossing film, which james cameron also made, that was "titanic." "avatar" has received nine oscar nominations. it is tied in nomination with kathryn bigelow's "the hurt locker." hend kathryn were married, they are still friends, that is contest serve somehow upset by. if there is a good time to be
james cameron, it has to be now. i am pleased to have him back on this program to talk about this little movie and what it says about the rest of us. welcome. >> well, thank you for that introduction. >> rose: (laughs) sglfrn it's a pleasure to be back. >> rose: thank you. thank you. well, wel get into all of this why do you think it is doing so well beyond the technology? beyond the 3d? >> i think... well, we didn't see this coming. we expected that we were making a commercial film. it had action, it had this whole other world. we kind of knew what worked about the movie. and i think it's actually sum total of all the elements. it's no one thing. it's not just the 3d, not just the visual effects. i think it's driven a lot by the fact that people are having a strong emotional reaction in the film. i think it's driven a lot by the fact that it's a film for women as much as men and for families. meaning parents can take their children, parents can take their parents. grandparent cans take their grand kids, you know? and it's this yosz generational thing and transcultural thing
that gets you to this kind of stratosphereic level. and i'm only saying that because we saw the same thing with "titanic" even though it was a very different film. >> rose: there any different in terms of region? do the audience react differently in china than they do in spain? >> i haven't actually sat through a screening in china. but our results in china are phenomenal. they're off the scale. and, you know, it thereby highest-grossing film in china. and, you know, so i'm guessing that they're responding in the same way to the universalitys of the human experience in the film. i think they're probably... if i have to guess-- and what i can tell from the reports i'm getting there-- they're crying in the same places and they're cheering in the same places. so they're getting it. there's something almost the sort of... the simplicity of the story seems to transcend cultures very easily. and the strength of the visual. >> rose: the simplicity of the stories, s what other people are drawn to. they says that classic story.
>> uh-huh. and it's been criticize national guard as well. >> rose: that's what i'm getting to. what's the message here that you, the filmmaker, were trying to say? >> well, you know, it's probably my most personal film in the sense that i can track the inception of this film over... develop in the a period of many years from when i was a kid out in the woods in canada where i grew up catching frogs and snakes and being a kind of hands-on junior naturalist, you know, throw learning to scuba dive and loving the ocean so much and, you know, it's my response to this world, this pandora right here, this natural beauty and diversity that we have here. and then through the development as a film maker, learning the craft, learning the visual effects, learning how to push the envelope and all that. so for me "avatar" is a sum total of all of that. and so my... you know, i wanted
that environmental theme in there. i wanted those kind of spiritual themes in there. the studio, of course, in their way, tried to get me to down pedal that. >> rose: oh, they did? >> oh, absolutely, sure. >> rose: what did they say? >> well, look, it's common... i would say it's common wisdom at least prior to "avatar" that you didn't do that in a mainstream film. >> rose: don't put political messages in a big film. >> especially environmental messages. it was death. if it got ought that there was an environmental message to this film it would cost us 50% of our box office. that would be the classic thinking on it. >> rose: so what they did not what you to do what? >> well, the request was is there a way to cut down on this sort of hippy tree-hugging stuff. >> rose: (laughs) exactly. >> i think that was the exact quote. >> rose: is that what they said? >> sure, absolutely. look, it's a legitimate concern but that's why i want to make the film in the first place. that was the fundamental driver. because, you know, after
"titanic" i didn't have to make another movie if i didn't want to. i did all these cool expedition films. >> rose: it's been good to you. >> yeah, it worked out. and i had other interests, frankly. i was doing exploration. >> rose: so what do you hope the movie convinces people about? that t planet is fragile? >> sure. sure. >> rose: that somehow if we don't take care of it, it's going to be consumed by our own appetites? is that it? >> i think that were in a very precarious position as humans. we're not going to destroy nature, we can't do that. nature will heal. but our life as the human species will be radically changed. we're going to go through a lot of pain and heartache if we don't acknowledge our kind of stewardship responsibilities to nature. because we're in a unique position in history that's never existed before where there's enough of us and there's enough of an impact created by our industrialized society that we're actually changing the world that we live on. and that's never happened before. and we're sort of in the middle of it so we don't see this happening. and human nature is such that we
believe that if it's worked for several thousand years it's going to continue to work. but that's not the case. business as usual isn't going to work. >> rose: here's what the critics say, not studio bosses. "avatar" is deeply stupid. >> (laughs) >> rose: it is relentlessly stupid. he's taken every left-wing cliche about politics: there you go, that's what you did. every cliche you could find, just pour it on. >> it must drive him nuts that people love that so much. >> rose: (laughs) >> you know, and i think that's obviously deeply demeaning to the audience that has found something in the film. and, frankly, i think it's an attempt to deflect from the real issue which is that people are connecting to the message of the film as well as the visuals. >> rose: and the characters, too
i assume they like the characters. but it's the noble savage thing that drives them crazy, too. they're not intellectual people have an insight and a sense of history who says this is the noble savage all over again. >> of course it is. it's the russo fantasy of the noble savage. but that's why the film works. look, intellectually we can know that there is no such creature as someone who lives a perfect harmonious life in nature. >> rose: in a perfect place. >> in a perfect place. and by the way, it's a very hostile place where they have to hunt for a living and they can be hunted. so there are even different interpretations of what is harmony with nature. harmony with nature is knowing your place in the food chain and that, in fact, you may be the prey. it's not holding hands singing in a field of daisys. but, you know, i think the fact that people respond to the na'vi the characters in theilm, the tribe in the film, respond to their philosophy of
connectedness to the earth and to each other means that we have that within ourselves. >> rose: but here what what they were bothered by, too. it is that they have to be rescued by... >> oh, that's a different criticism, though. >> rose: it's very different but that's another criticism. >> that's the left-wing criticism of the movie. >> rose: that's exactly right. >> that it's paternalistic, which is a form of racism. >> rose: so somebody from the planet earth has to come over and rescue the na'vi from the bad people who want to do in their planet. >> see, i think that they're looking at the film from a kind of a civil rights aspect instead of from a historical perspective. the historical perspective is that when indigenous populations who were at a bow and arrow level are met with technologically superior military forces that have muskets, blunderbusss and ships and horses with armor and so on, which is the history of the colonial period, they lose. if somebody doesn't help them, they lose. it's not a question of them standing up for themselves.
they can't do it. and historically that has been the case. so we're not talking about, you know, a racial group within an existing population fighting for their rights. >> rose: you're saying the noble savage cannot win alone. >> absolutely not. >> rose: that's what you're saying. >> there's only one instance that i know of on this planet where they have prevailed and become a part of the culture once the europeans invaded and that's in new zealand. where the maui, because they're tough bastards, basically, managed to find them to a draw and get a decent treaty. but here in south america, central america, they got subsumed or elaved or marginalized. >> rose: david brooks in the "new york times." >> oh, you're lining them up. this is good, bring it. bring it. >> rose: bring it on. (laughs) "it rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalists and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. it rests on the assumption that non-whites need the white messiah to lead their crusades.
it rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. it also create assort of two-edged cultural imperialism. native cans either have their history shaped by cruelism peer y'allists or benevolent one bus either way they're going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration." >> interesting. yeah. i've already talked about the white messiah concept and how i think that's, frankly, not appropriate. it's not germane to what the movie's doing. i think some of the other stluf is a little confusing and i'm hearing it for the first time. but i think that people are... >> rose: that's a suary of what he said. >> i think they're missing the point of how the movie works and was intended to work. the way i intended the film to work and the way i believe it is working is that when people view the film they are told initially that the na'vi are bad, that they're hostile, ferocious, and that they'll try to kill them. and you meet them and find out that in fact they're actually pretty fearsome but as you start
to see the world more from their perspective and our hero goes on this journey of per seven which you will change we begin to embrace them more and more. and we emerge from the end of the film on the side of the na'vi, which really means that we've gone 180 degrees and we're looking at ourselves now from the outside. that's what science fiction can do that all the other literary forms can't do. we can actually look at ourselves from the outside through a mirror or a lens of this fantasy allegorical story. so we see in ourselves, human culture, human civilization, as nature sees us. as the intruder, as the invader. as that which is threatening. and when people have that within the film they feel... they feel a sense of moral outrage. >> rose: the united states, for example, sees itself as imperialistic, as destroying its own environment. >> yes, absolutely. all developed nations are destroying their environment. some to different degrees and,
of course, the developing nations are even worse because they don't have the luxury of being able to protect their environment as they try to scramble up the ladder of development to a stronger economy if you look at what's happening in china and india. they have much... >> rose: we have to change our standard of living. >> we have to change the way we grow and we have to be able to grow an economy sustainably in a way we're not doing right now. and you know we are jeopardizing the... we're jeopardizing everything on this planet because as things... it's not about nature. yes, we're going to hit the planet hard. we're doing it right now. but the effect of that is that there's going to be chaos between nations for food supply, diminishing food supply as populations grow. >> rose: water. >> water is going to be critical. all of this stuff. and we're in denial about it all. >> rose: exactly. everybody that i know who thinks seriously about the future makes that point. >> sure. >> rose: when it has to do with
food, whether it these do with water. >> energy. >> rose: whether it these do with energy. scarcity becomes a point of political conflict. >> that's right. exactly. and it will drive conflict. and it will crash economies and it will create chaos and it's going to be a very unpleasant time for us to go through if we don't get a handle on these things right now. to me, the way i look at it-- and i've done a tremendous amount of personal research on this, not necessarily as part of "avatar"-- is that all of the curves seem to converge out 10, 15, 20 years in the future having to do with population, the way our agricultural recesses are stretched to the limit, they're highly dependent on cheap energy, which is going away. we're not replacing it with alternative energy rapidly enough. all the trends... you know, the falling aquifers, the rising climate, all these trends all converge and we're not getting a handle on it quickly enough. look at copenhagen, which was a bust, you know?
>> rose: and if we don't? >> and if we don't... >> rose: the seeds of our own... >> the human race is not going to be wiped out. we'll adjust, we'll survive. we're a resourceful people. but hundreds of millions of people are going to be displaced. you're going to have refugee situations on a global scale. >> rose: so you hope that people who go in will be-- i assume-- and they are, i assume, entertained. >> absolutely. that's number one. >> rose: you are a commercial filmmaker if anybody in the history of cinema has ever been a commercial filmmaker you are the king. >> (laughs) you had to go there. >> rose: (laughs) it was cheap, too, wasn't it? >> it was a cheap shot, but that's okay. i set myself up for it. >> rose: yes, you did. >> nothing like the academy awards for making a fool of yourself in front of a billion people. >> rose: (laughs) what did you say at the golden globes, then? >> i was okay. i spoke a little na'vi to my cast. >> rose: (laughs) yes, it was something like that. i mean, do you think... you want
the wod and certainly developed world to wake up. is that what you want to... beyond being entertained by your characters and your story and your technology, you want them to wake up. >> look, i have no illusions about the efficacy of an entertainment motion picture in changing public policy. it's going to be a minor contribution. but here's where i think it can work and where it hasn't historically worked but where it can work. which is we've got the facts, we've seen "inconvenient truth" we've read all the magazine articles, we collectively as a society know that there are these issues. but as a society we're in denial. well, what is denial but a mental mechanism in response to an emotional reaction, which is fear. fear of change, fear of an uncertain future, fear for our children. and fear generate it is denial. so i figure you fight an emotion with an emotion. "avatar" doesn't teach you
facts. it doesn't have one bar graph in it. it's not "inconvenient truth." but does create a sense of emotional outrage and it creates a sense of hopefulness toward the end as good conquers evil. >> rose: and could you hope it creates a sense of urgency? >> absolutely. that's right. that's right. and people do... the message does resonate for them because they recognize it. >> rose: when you want a movie to have the impact or the message... was it louis b. mayier that said "you want to send a message go to western union." you don't buy that, do you? >> no, i don't think so. going back to what i said before i didn't need to make another film and i wanted to? do something that was personal and i thought had thematic value to it. so i threw everything i had at getting it... at making it a great piece of entertainment and that was the 3d and the c.g. and creating the world and everything i knew how to do, every trick i knew to get people to come to a theater.
and every trick i knew as a filmmaker to engage them in terms of the story and the actors and so on. and part of that was telling the story that was simple in an archetypal matter that located them comfortably so they could have an emotional reaction. >> rose: here ismy point, though. everything... to have the impact does it always have to be white hat/bad hat? can you make it more nuanced? and if you do, will you lose something both in terms of commercial value or in terms of political value? >> well, you know, look, we're kind of in uncharted territory with this movie because it's a big $200 million plus production four-year production, big mainstream hollywood picture. that is dealing with social political cultural environmental themes. that's in a very narrow category because i can't point to other examples of that. the studios try to stay away
from that stuff. they don't want to lose one ticket sale to somebody who might be upset by, you know, a message. so they caution away from that and generally speaking, common wisdom is you don't do so. you do it in a smaller picture. >> rose: that's right. >> so it's a little bit uncharted territory. so i was just trying. every movie is a big experiment and sometimes they're social experiments and i was hoping that there was a way to create an emotional reaction and graf state the public conversation to these topics. >> rose: fair enough. but, i mean, you did this because this is what you do, is my point. if i was talking about jim cameron i wouldn't say he could have gone off and set up shop on a yacht. that's not who you are. you are a filmmaker. you are a guy who wants to be in there and you are running against yourself! >> yeah. >> you ran against "titanic" in terms of creating another film. you had to make is something that was beyond whatever else had gone before. that's the nature of you. or not?
>> i think so. i think that's very accurate. maybe i'm being charitable but i think that filmmakers always run against themselves. >> rose: artists run against themselves. >> it's pointless to compete with other filmmakers because everybody's got a different vision and a different agenda, a different bit of communication that they want to do. but you do run against yourself in the sense that you want to do the job better, you want to learn from what's gone before. you want to be at your personal... beat your personal best. i'm not talking about money, i'm not talking about box office because we didn't imagine that we would blow past "titanic" like we did. but communicating to a global audience. i like that do that. i like to engage people in different languages because i'm speaking in cinema. not because i'm speaking in english or in french or whatever else. >> rose: you're going to make another one. it will either be a... you can write a book about it. it will be a prequel to this? or r you not? you'll tell us more about how the na'vis came into being? >> i mean, i had planned this novel project for a long time
and i never had time to finish it before the film came out and so i'm going to do hit in the next few months. assuming i can write a nove this is more uncharted territory. and then we'll continue to the extent that i can get deals worked out with 20th century fox we'll continue with this world because it all exists. we have the hard drives that have all the plants and animals and everything already to go. >> rose: tell me how this in any way is in the same place as "star wars." >> well, "star wars" was a film that when i was in my early 20s really blew my mind in a couple of ways, because it was a milestone in the creation of new cinematic technique and in that case they were using motion control system which is didn't really exist before to create these dynamic moving landscapes. and lucas did so many things that were ground-breaking on that film that it just blew away an audience with the shock of the new and the wonder of brand-new characters, new mythology, all that. >> rose: the quality of the sound. >> quality of the sound.
quality of just of the image in general. it really enseparated fantasy film making to... he leapfrogged over a couple of quantum steps. and, you know, i always remember that. and the film before that that did that for me was "2001: a space odyssey." because there's science fiction before that film and everything after. and i think of "star wars" very much the same way. so when we sat down to conceive this project i said i want to pull out all the stops. i want to do that. i want to blo people away with something they've never seen before. now, that's a lofty goal and a very difficult goal because there's been so much improvement in the c.j. technology over the last 15 years that it's very... people are inundated by imagery that they don't understand how it's made. it's all sort of magical. so how do you do that? it seemed like we had to create a photo real seemless complete world and all the characters and creatures in it and that's a huge order. but we knew that. that was the goal, you know? mount everest. >> rose: and you made the goal.
>> and we did. we did. >> rose: you don't measure by commercial success, do you? you measure by whether this puts you in the pantheon of "2001: a space odyssey" and "star wars". that's the question. >> that remains to be seen that. 's a historical analysis. >> rose: you can't tell that you? >> well, look, i think we were definitely... >> rose: that's what you were shooting for. in your judgment, did you make it? is that where you wanted to go? you wanted to be up there on that level of film making? stanley kubrick, george lucas, james cameron. >> is it here? is it there? i don't know. >> rose: it's in the ballpark. >> it's in the ballpark because relative to the names have come out in the last few years, people seem to be getting more of a sense of a profound experience out of this. land that comes from the 3d or from the imagery, the dream-like quality of the film, what i call the lucid dream aspect of it, whether it's the story, whether it's all those things. the very first question you asked me what "what's contributing to the success? how do you account for it?"
and my answer was it's all of those things combined because i don't think you fight the battle on... the war on one front. i think you might it on as many fronts as you can to create a kind of an all-concealing experience. >> rose: tell me what's the most important thing you know about story telling. >> you have to find a key into the heart of the audience. which means you have to find universals of human experience and express them in exotic new ways. so you've got to find something that people recognize. simple as boy meets girl on a ship. which is going to sink. but the knowledge that it's going to sink was a critical part of that story telling because otherwise you had two hours of women in corsets and funny hats before anything happened, before the ship even hit the iceberg. but if you know it's sinking you hang around for all that. you see what i mean? so that was a part of the story telling. but i think it's always about the characters and how those characters express somethat that the audience is feeling. so it has to have some
universality to it having to do with relationships where it's parent/child, male/female, whatever it is. and then you he to take them on a journey. and then you have to make it excruciating somehow. >> rose: excruciating? >> excruciating. >> rose: they have to be challenged. they have to be in danger. they have to be in pain. >> they have to be in fear. >> rose: and triumphant. that's an element. some form of triumph. >> exactly. >> rose: whether it's values, victory, something. >> in the case of "titanic" everybody died including at the very end of the film the main character but she lived a life she had learned. there was a energy transfer from one character to another which i also think is a fundamental of a love story. that there's some flow of energy from one character to another. so i applied that to "avatar" because it's a very different story. different setting, different characters, different goals to the story and to the relationships. but there's... i think you can ep back to a very abstract
level of general principles and if you apply those principles, it will work. >> rose: what do you make of this competition between you and kathryn bigelow, two very different people who married but more than that, two people who share the this sense of wanting to be good filmmakers. >> i think we're really not that different in so many ways and we know that about each other. that we're both dedicated to the craft and it's... for both of us it's very much about the work and about a total concealing passion for film making. and, you know, i think that's what drew us together is each respected the other's passion and craft and so on. plus she was gorgeous. is gorgeous. >> rose: (laughs) she is. in our minds it's not a competition. that's a narrative that's imposed by others.
it makes a good story. we're so celebratory of each other's work and we've remained... you know, i produced two of her films, one of which i produced... wrote and produceed, wrote it with jay cox after we were divorced. >> rose: right. >> so we've worked together and we've been supportive colleagues she saw "avatar" five times at different stages of its development from very crude... >> rose: you would go show it to her and say "tell me what you think." >> she'd come over... tirelessly come over, watch the film. this is over a period of six or eight months and give me notes and even mark boll who wrote "hurt locker" gave very good notes, very helpful notes and they shared "hurt locker" with me earlier on and my note was very simple "don't change a damn thing." they showed it to meairly late in the process because i had been shooting and i said "don't change a damn thing, this thing is great." and they were very nervous... >> rose: why is it so great?
>> i think because it's consummately good film making. you are in those guys' shoes and you're there. i've been at screenings d watched people literally sit on the edge of their seat. literally. you hear that expression all the time. literally sit forward for the entire movie hands clenched like this. it's that tight. that taught. she's outgunned the guys deaf knitly. >> rose: (laughs) you're not surprised by that. >> not at all, not at all, she's always done that. but it's the recognition... finally the recognition catching up with the scope of her talent. >> rose: so if someone sitting there says, look, i'm going to give it to cameron best picture but bigelow best director... >> that would be a fantasy. that would be my fantasy outcome absolutely. >> rose: that would be what you'd like to see? >> that's the best possible outcome because it's... i know how hard my team worked and how much they would... how proud
they would be of that accolade. you know what i mean? for myself i've already got an oscar, i've got a couple of them and i respect the whole institution of the academy awards because it's so... it's the pinnacle of achievement in my chosen profession but i don't really need another one. but to be honored, have the team honored and for their accomplishment, it would mean so much to them and i think that would be the fantasy outcome in all of this. >> rose: so you're saying to the voters, please, take a look at my team and go for us as best picture but.... >> yeah. >> rose: go for kathryn bigelow for best director? >> all i can say is that that would make me very happyment. >> rose: happier than it was best director for james cameron? >> honestly, yes. >> rose: i believe you. i believe you. >> absolutely. i think she's worked so hard for so long and there's something
very irresistible about the idea of a woman finally being anointed in that role. it's ridiculously long overdue and she, of course, would reject that being a woupl should have anything to do with it and that's what's cool about it. >> rose: we'll see. thank you for coming. i mean, this is... i love film, as you know, and for you to come and talk about it in an interesting way. >> it's always a pleasure. we get a chance to talk about cool stuff and you were well prepared, you had every negative review you could find. you sent your people out. >> rose: (laughs) i did that. >> no, it's good. it was a good single tennis match. you know? i like that? >> rose: (laughs) i like tennis. james cameron, the director and writer of "avatar", a film that's gotten all the commercial success you could ever hope and at the same time critical success because of its nine nominations for the academy award in which it's already won in other awards that have already been granted.
what can you say? the people have smokin'. back in a moment. stay with us. as the countdown the academy awards continues, we bring you another oscar momen >> the scene where i was crying, had tears in my eyes was when sam picks up frodo on to his shoulders and says "i can't carry the ring for you, mr. frodo, but i can carry you." and we shot that on the side of a volcano in new zealand, the real volcano, an active volcano and it was at the end of the day and it was one of those situations where the light was kind of going down and we had to move quite quickly and we only got three takes. we shot the entire sequence of sam cradling frodo in three takes and i couldn't... i didn't even have time to shoot different angles on elijah and sean so i had to have one camera pointing at elijah lying on the ground being cradled and another camera at the same time pointing
at sam because i was running out of time and by the third take the guys had delivered the goods and i had to... i had tears. >> rose: we continue with the great willie mays. simply put, he's one of the best baseball players of all time. in a 22-year career, revolutionized how the game is played, he became the definition of on field excellence. but it was the personal impact he made on fans, teammatings, and his competitors that sets him apart. since retiring in 1973, he has lived a mostly private life but he recently authorized a biography. he calls it a book for the people. the book is called "willie mays, the life, the legend." he's also responsible for the say-hey foundation, the promotion of academic study for underprivileged children. i'm pleased to have on this broadcast this conversation with willie mays. you said this is a book for the
people. >> yes, uh-huh. >> rose: why did you say that >> well, i travel a lot and when i found out people touch me on the shoulder, they said you did this for me, you did that for me. and i says i don't recall. and when i start saying to myself why not get a book and let them tell their own story because sometimes i don't remember all the things i might have done for kids or all the gentlemen that i don't recall. but i didn't want to offend them by saying i don't know. i just keep it going sometimes. >> rose: for a long time people wanted you-- including james hirsch, who authorized by you to do this-- for you to tell your story. >> yes. >> rose: and you waited. >> yes. >> rose: and you resisted. >> yes. >> rose: why? >> because i... i didn't think i was through. at the time i heard that he wanted to do a book ten years ago but i was still working for bali's.
>> rose: the resort complex. >> that was the game down in the atlantic city and i felt that i had a little more story to tell if i just waited a little longer because that was a whole new game for me. i stayed in bally's for 25 years and it was something new coming out of baseball where i could tell people what to do. now i'm going into an establishment where they tell me what to do and i didn't understand it. if i play ball and i know what to do, let me do my own thing. but that's not the way in the s in the game of business, as you well know. >> rose: you said "when they hit it, i catch it." >> yes, uh-huh. i learned that a long time ago. it's a very simple game, baseball. >> rose: and when they throw it, i hit it. >> when they hit it i catch it, when they throw it i hit it. very simple. >> rose: (laughs) >> there's more to that as you well know. >> rose: yes, indeed.
which did you do better: hit it or throw it? or catch it. >> i liked defense better than i like offense. >> rose: did you really. >> yes, because i felt if i could catch mostly everything that came out there the team that i'm playing against has to score one or two runs to beat us. but if i don't catch the ball, then we have t score three or four runs. so my father always said to me make sure defense is your priority. so i said okay. i'll go with that. but i could hit the ball out of the ballpark without any problem but defense was my first priority. >> rose: did you do that thing with more grace than anything else? >> i used to dream at night and people asked me how could you dream at night and go to the ballpark and do what you dream? i don't know. i ed to think about a fly ball coming to me at nighttime when i'm at home laying down watching t.v. and something happened, the
ball would come out to me, i knew exactly what i had to do. i didn't have to worry about me catching the ball, throwing it. i seen it the night before and i don't know how i did that. i have no idea. >> rose: but the famous catch. >> yes. >> rose: did you see that the night before? >> left-hander don little ready to go. here's the pitch, here's a long drive to deep, deep center field. mays back to the wall. an incredible catch! turns and fires it in! what a catch b willie mays. >> in 1954 when big hit the ball... >> rose: big works, right? >> big works. i wasn't worried about catching the ball. i was worried about getting the ball back into the infield because playing in the ground for about five or six years, i could score from second on a fly ball like that many times. >> rose: now wait a minute, stop this for me. you were saying you whether or not worried about catching the ball? >> no, i wasn't worried about catching the ball. >> rose: you were thinking about how am i going to throw the ball
after i catch it? >> yes, yes. >> rose: even though it's coming over your head. >> oh, yeah. well, that's like a football catch. like a wide receiver. >> rose: right, right. >> he catches the ball over his head. >> rose: that's what he does. >> you have to catch it that way. in order for you to catch it that way you have to do a 360 in order to get the ball back into the infield. so as i'm rubbing, i'm saying to myself... i'm talking to myself. nobody heard this, i'm just talking to myself. get this ball back into the infield. get this ball back into the infield. as soon as i catch it i knew exactly what i had to do. i had to get it back into the infield as quick as i can and that's what i did. larry doby, i think, was on second. rosen was on first. only one guy advanced. to me, that's tremendous! one guy advanced on a fly ball like that? so it was something that i felt that was necessary in that particular world series.
>> rose: i want to have you listen to a clip. this is reggie jackson on this show. who's the best player you ever saw? >> mays. >> rose: really. >> mays. >> rose: because he could do everything? >> mays for us... i don't know for bobby but for me we could watch him like you did jordan when you played against him. we played him in spring training and you wound up... you wound up realizing that you were watching willie, the way he ran, the way he caught the ball, the way he threw it in. everything he did had a style to it. and he did everything super. not well. he did it all super. stole a base, stole ineeded it. hit well. hit homers. and was exciting. >> was it's easy for you? easy. >> rose: everything that i did in baseball was easy. my job when i played baseball was to make the people around me
better meaning that if a guy couldn't throw, i would show him how to throw in spring training to make sure that he knew exactly what i wanted him to do. i go to the right fielder, see what he's all about, then i go to the infielder to see what they're all about. i knew every position how to play it and i did it. and i wanted to make sure they understood that i could tell them what to do. and i want them to do exactly what i tell them do because they gave me the power to run this field when i play. and whenpy... see the power then i said to myself i've got to make these guys make sure that they do the right thing. and they did. >> rose: would you have rather played today or play when you played? >> i would rather play when i play. the reason for that is that every club had a superstar on their own, each club. >> rose: right. >> i think we had 18 in each
league. and we played all-star game and different things. but if you look at every team that we played, dodgers had all superstars, cincinnati had frank robinson over there, then you go to pittsburgh and all those guys there, clemente. star ja. every club that we played had somebody on there that you had to make sure that you keep in check. today is a... it seems like it's all about money. sure, i love the money very well but i think baseball would come first to me. i would play baseball just for nothing if i had the choice to do it because it's just a fun game for me. very fun. >> rose: even when it was segregated it was fun for you. >> uh-huh. i had that there trenton, my first year in trenton. i was there by myself. i had a manager named chick
genovese and he would talk to me about being by myself. i said "hey, i don't have no problem with that as long as they don't bother me or don't touch me. they can holler anything they want to and what i did... it was called the interstate league. what i did is that every time we'd go into a town when they called me names i hit it further on about the third day... >> rose: (laughs) they stopped calling you names. >> they stopped calling me names. >> rose: will do it every time. >> oh, yes. >> rose: it is said-- and you tell me-- that jackie wanted you to be more public. >> yes, uh-huh. >> rose: tell me. >> well, i didn't think i was capable of doing that. if he wanted know come out and say something about race that i didn't know about, i didn't think i had the knowledge of trying to say things that i didn't know about or things that
happened or didn't happen. but i could talk to him about things that happened to me in the race department but i couldn't come out and just do things he wanted know do but jackie and i was good friends. very good friends. but he might have been more educated than i was, i don't know. coming out of college and everything, i never had the opportunity to do that. i don't know. it just was something that i couldn't do without being positive of what i was doing. >> rose: it wasn't you. >> it wasn't my thing. we had a lot of guys doing that already so i... it just wasn't me. i do things right now... people don't know what i do sometimes. i do it for kids because i love to be around them. i do it for people that i don't know half of the time. but you know what i found out,
too, is that when people want to have fun you give them a couple dollars. so i went out and i found a gentleman and i says "i want to do something right now while i'm alive and i like to see people. sqots i chose seven or eight people to give money to. and i found out what they needed like my barber... not barber but my dentist. he needed a chair. i gave him $12,000 for a chair. he says "why you give me this?" "i want you to have it and i want you to smile. you go buy your chair." there was a young lady had a problem with credit cards and i says how much you owe? she said "i owe $10,000." i said "okay, come pick it up." she says "are you kidding? " i said "no, you pick it up." so i had another guy that i was in the army with, he says "my wife and i need a roof. " so i gave him $10,000. >> rose: and it's not a story that's told often but people know about it, willie.
>> i hope that do. >> rose: because people have learned about you and your generosity. but you've been a very private person. >> yes, very much so. >> rose: why is that? >> i just never liked to have people come to me day in and day out and just talk about my life. my life was very, very difficult when i came along. >> rose: it was difficult because of... t race involvement? >> very much so. let's take trenton, for instance. trenton is part of new york, like new jersey. it wasn't trenton so much but the other little towns, maybe harrisburg, wilmington, yorktown. all those. i was by myself. now when i got to the point where i left the interstate league i got to the majors. now, you think about chicago. chicago we had to stay across at the south side. since nayty we had to stay on top of the heel there.
st. louis... >> rose: and how did that make you feel? >> i was like... i would say i was kind of programmed for that. and the guy that programmed me a little bit about that... when i say programming, the guy says "willie, you're going to have a hard time when you come into professional ball. you're going to have to show yourself that you can handle all this stuff." and i didn't understand what he was talking about so as i started growing up the dder i remember well, here it is. people are going to say things that have no meaning, meaningful things at all. so what i try and do is make sure that when somebody calls you a name and wherever it may be i just... again, i hit the ball farther. by the time i go into the next town they're all clapping for me i ner really got into a
confrontation where i would have to fight all the time. i never did do that. but i would fight now. that's what my dad knew. he knew i would fight. he knew i would protect myself. but he says no, you have to turn the other cheek. and i think that's in the book where he says you turn the other cheek and you will go further than you ever thought you would go. and i didn't understand all that until i start in the majors and people would call you names and call you this and call you that and i says oh, now i know what he's talking about. now i've got to keep my mouth closed for a little while. and i did. >> rose: i wan u t explain greatness to me. >> greatness? >> rose: greatness. dimaggio had it and you had it and michael jordan had it. >> michael had it coming out of college. i followed him when he was in college. >> rose: as a babble player. >> a basketball player.
he made the last shot. greatness is something that you see when you have to do something and you do it without even thinking about doing it. greatness to me is going to the ballpark, making sure i can do whatever i want to do and do everything else for everybody else and do my job. now, i don't know the greatness that other people may have. there's a lot of definitions about greatness. >> rose: let me take one thing. hitting. why could yohit it better than people who played the game? >> i think it was my eyes. >> rose: eyes. >> i could see the rotation of the ball when the guy threw me a breaking ball i could see the rotation. i could see the seams on the ball. say for instance he threw me a breaking ball and it broke left, i knew i got to take that ball to right center. if i see the tumbler in baseball, if i see the tumbler comes inside i know i have to
pull that ball. i could see all that when i was first starting. i knew exactly what i had to do. so it's... it was a lot of things in baseball that you have to think about. it's not just going on the field and playing. >> rose: did you play too long? >> i don't think so. people say that. >> rose: they do say that. >> i tell you the truth they said oh, you played too long. well, look at the guys today! they got 45-year-old guys! >> rose: they're not talking about that, willie. you know what they're talking about. they're talking about you were the epitome of grace and speed and talent and near the end you didn't do it the same. >> it's no no more than going and doing at 40, 41. >> rose: (laughs) that's true. >> no one. let's debate that, charlie. >> go ahead. >> rose: >> when i was 40, i hit 15, 20 home runs.
that wasn't me, i knew that. but give me two years out of the 20 years that i got. give me. it's like you doing a job here. >> rose: right. joop >> okay, you do it for 40 years. >> rose: (laughs) yes. >> then all of a sudden guys come in here and knock on the door and say charlie, you're out of here. >> rose: good-bye! >> and you say wait a minute! what happened to the 25 that i did. that's what baseball i wanted to do. >> rose: in the 1973 world series, your last one. >> rose: that's my last year. >> rose: there was a sign that said-- and i just love this willie-- who we are who are about to cry salute you. and they were crying because it wasn't the same. yet stherp saluting you because of what joy, what greatness, what beautiful moments over a period of time you... but you say it's the nature of life and >> in 1973 i didn't play bad in
the world series. >> right. >> rose: i played in the two games. i won... i got two hits in the first game. >> rose: that's pretty good. >> two in the second game. >> rose: that's probably batting about .400, isn't it? >> the only thing that bothered me in the world series at that time, i didn't get a chance to go to bat in the last game. i didn't care what people said about me, i got to the world series and i had a day in may. mrs. joan payson... >> rose: woman who own it had mets. >> she says "you can't quit." and i didn't understand what she was talking about. the next day i was going on the plane and she called me and says "you can't quit." i says "mrs. payson, i just had a day, i thanked people on the stands and i've got go." "no, you can't go. you stay here with me." >> rose: do you know what tu lula bank head said about you.
>> a lula? >> rose: do you know what she said about you? >> there have only be two geniuses, william shakespeare and wailly mays. >> ros >> (laughs) that sounds like a lula. >> she said "of the two, i would rank shakespeare first." >> she lived in new york. >> rose: i know. if you were going to write your own epitaph, what would you write? >> i would like to have people remember me as a guy that went on the field, did whathe had to do and did it the best he knew how to do it and i really didn't try and do anything different than... you know, like other people did, i did it my way. i created the basket catch, i created so many things out there and i'd like for people to understand that whatever i did,
i did it to... the best i could. and sometimes they're not going to like it and sometimes they did. i remember one time i made four errors in one game. i didn't ever think i would do that. >> rose: nor did i. >> now i hit four home runs in one gay. i didn't think i'd do that. >> rose: you said you could have hit five. >> i could have hit five. close by. you did good research there. >> rose: (laughs) we get credit occasionally. >> i'll give you that. i don't think how long you're going to stay here but i'll give you that. >> rose: (laughs) but >> but when you talk about things like that, how can you tell yourself what people are thinking? every american this book, every person is telling their story about what is going on and you said yourself well, i don't remember all these things but, boy, did i do all that? i f i did, thank god i'm still healthy and thank god that i could do all these things and
not know what i was doing. >> rose: you did a lot, my friend, you did a lot. i thank you for coming. >> o.k., thank you for having me. >> rose: willie mays, the life, the legend. it's an extraordinary story and i'm honored that you've come here to share it with us. >> well, i was going to come anyway because you don't remember me back in the time we was in washington, you don't know... >> rose: (laughs) yes i do! yes, i do. >> i'll never forget it because it was just a wonderful time, you taking time out to interview me for a book that may not have did well but you didn't tell me that but it... i remember. so thank you very much. >> rose: thank you, willie. >> okay. give me a hand shake. >> rose: there you go. your hands are bigger than mine. lookt that. >> you announced i was a player. >> rose: (laughs) ♪